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New Trump Admin Plan for Bears Ears National Monument 'Recklessly Weakens Protections'

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The Interior Department on Friday released its management plan for Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

By Jessica Corbett

Conservation groups and congressional Democrats slammed the Trump administration Friday over its destructive new management plan for the "illegally reduced" Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.


In December of 2017, the administration provoked mass outrage with its decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85 percent. The Bureau of Land Management — an agency of the U.S. Interior Department — published in the Federal Register on Friday a management plan for, as one critic put it, "the meager remnants of the original monument."

"This administration's management plan only reinforces its illegal action to steal huge swaths of land from the national monument so that oil and gas and mining companies can exploit the land," Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) said in a statement Friday. "It puts sacred sites at risk of being lost forever."

Haaland is an original co-sponsor of the Bears Ears Expansion and Respect for Sovereignty (BEARS) Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) in January, would not only protect the original land designated by former President Barack Obama, but also expand the monument to the full 1.9 million acres encompassing sacred artifacts and cultural resources that local tribes wish to protect.

The administration's new plan, Gallego warned, "recklessly weakens protections even for the land that remains in the monument, failing to protect important sites from threats like ATV use, looting, vandalism, and damage from target shooting — which would be permitted within monument boundaries."

"This proposed management plan confirms what we already knew," he declared. "The Trump administration has no interest in protecting the thousands of cultural and archeological sites in Bears Ears Monument or in seriously consulting with tribes on how best to manage their sacred ancestral lands."

Environmental groups and tribes have challenged the administration's move to reduce the monument in court. Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney of the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains office, said Friday that "if we win the legal fight to restore Bears Ears National Monument, this plan will just be 800 pages of wasted effort."

Responding to the administration's plan for the monument, McIntosh added that "even in the parts of Bears Ears that President Trump left intact, he's planning on putting destructive activities before the American public's interests. Bears Ears is not the kind of place for chaining thousands of acres of forest or stringing up utility lines."

Other conservation groups quickly piled on with criticism Friday.

Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called the proposal "fundamentally flawed and premature," while Tim Peterson of Grand Canyon Trust said that the way the Trump administration has "added the insult of this detestable plan to the injury of slashing Bears Ears is deeply disturbing, and it cannot stand."

Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, raised concerns about the timing.

"The release of this management plan days before Congress leaves for a month is dubious at best and reckless at worst," Saeger said in a statement. "The Trump administration continues to prove its utter disregard of our public lands and outdoor heritage through its strong-armed attempts to illegally shrink this sacred and culturally-critical place."

"There is a lack of respect for the law, the courts, and the mass public concern that illegally shrinking Bears Ears has evoked," he added. "Stealing land away from the public in order to reward their special interest allies seems to be the only priority of this administration."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Protesters gathered outside US Bank and Wells Fargo locations around the U.S. to protest investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Dec. 1, 2016. This photo is from a protest outside US Bank in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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